Eric Holcomb, Indiana’s supermajority governor


EVANSVILLE — More than a dozen years ago during the 2010 election cycle, Eric Holcomb was a key cog on Gov. Mitch Daniels’ Aiming Higher PAC built to create a durable House Republican majority after ending up in the minority two years earlier.

The money raised crested $1 million. The names of what would be the “Class of ‘10” are familiar to this day: Wendy McNamara, Sharon Negele, Timothy Wesco, Sue Ellspermann, Al Morrison, Mike Karickhoff, Bob Heaton and Jim Baird.

The Class of ‘10 was a precursor to a historic achievement. The newly forged majority that year redrew the legislative and congressional maps in 2011, a task performed so well that it was followed by six consecutive GOP General Assembly supermajorities, the last four guided by Gov. Holcomb and Indiana Republican Chairman Hupfer. This has been an unprecedented concentration of power.

And it has pushed Gov. Holcomb into what those outside looking in see as a “radicalized” governor.

Last summer he signed some of the most far-reaching abortion restrictions in the nation and the law was upheld by the Indiana Supreme Court in June. This past spring, Holcomb signed bills greatly expanding school vouchers, HEA 1447 that subjects school librarians to felony charges if they share “harmful material” while HEA 1608 and SEA 480 delved into the realm of transgender youth and parental rights.

In 2022, Holcomb vetoed a bill — HEA 1041, which banned transgender students from competing in IHSAA girls’ sports — only to be easily overridden that May. The next month, Indiana Republican Convention delegates meted out political retribution, defeating Holcomb’s appointed Secretary of State Holli Sullivan when Diego Morales prevailed.

Traveling with Holcomb in late June, I spent more than an hour conducting this interview at the Gerst Bavarian Haus. Has the supermajority “radicalized” the previously moderate (but historically pro-life) governor by putting forth such legislation that some people view as extreme, and knowing it would be overridden if he issued a veto?

Holcomb was unfazed by the question. “I take your point about whether they were jamming the governor,” he said. “You have to take the issues one by one, no matter how hot the button is or what the issue is.”

And his guiding light? The Indiana Constitution. “The governor will always have to make a decision over to sign, not sign or veto. There’s a cost to each,” he explained. “I typically look at constitutionality as kind of my threshold.”

A few minutes later, he extrapolated further: “If you say or subscribe to our founding documents, or the Declaration (of Independence) that we’re all entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, then, to me, it comes down to a constitutional” question and others. “How we define what life is, what liberty is and the pursuit of happiness is,” he explained. “Life being first, so what is or isn’t life? I think that gets decided ultimately in the current form, state by state.

“But, I would also say, what’s occurred in Indiana after it?” Holcomb asked, addressing those who warned that doctors would pack up their practices and leave, or students wouldn’t come to state colleges and universities, or that Fortune 500 companies would no longer invest here.

“After, say, the last two, four, six years a lot of the naysayers who tried to profit politically off it have become more relegated to a deeper superminority,” he said of Hoosier Democrats. “We went from $8.7 billion in capital investment to $22 billion and our pipeline is full right now. Purdue has record enrollment. Lilly is making the biggest single site investment to date. So when people say, ‘People aren’t going to move here; people aren’t going to want to go to school here,’ tell that to Illinois. We’re seeing the opposite.

“Republicans have over 90% of local offices, supermajorities and every statewide elected office,” he continued. “The question would be, are you worried you’re not going to continue to pick up seats when we continue to pick up seats? And we’re playing offense in areas we don’t have right now.”

Beyond the abortion, library and transgender laws he has signed, Holcomb had an audacious final budget session. He signed sprawling health sector reorganization and a record investment in mental health funding. He forged a $500 million Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI), received $1 billion in economic development funding, and big pay raises for Indiana State Police troopers.

This helicopter flight to Evansville revealed a governor six and a half years into his tenure deeply enjoying the job and buoyed by the impacts he has been making. He produced an iPad and began showing off 45 videos he narrates — what Holcomb calls his “quiver of arrows” — that he can send on a dime to those pondering investments in the state.

Appearing with Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke at a signature Q&A setting at the University of Southern Indiana’s Screaming Eagle Arena, the out-going mayor said to the governor: “My shot clock is 191 days. And your shot clock says 557. I think you can sell anything you want in your next career because you’re so passionate about Indiana. We have grown because of your passion and teamwork.”


Brian Howey is managing editor of Howey Politics Indiana/State Affairs. Find Howey on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol.